After separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas today, President Bush said the following:
…both sides need to fulfill their commitments under the road map…
I reiterate my appreciation for the Arab League peace initiative. And I call upon the Arab countries to reach out to Israel, a step that is long overdue.
He appreciates it. That is different from approving of it or calling for its implementation. But it is something more than ignoring it and a lot more than rejecting it. Mr. Bush also mentioned the initiative positively in his speech of July 2007.
As you may remember, the Arab League (or Saudi) peace initiative calls for 1) Israel to withdraw from all territories captured in 1967, 2) a ‘just’ settlement of the refugee problem in accordance with UN Resolution 194 and which is agreeable to the refugees’ host countries, and 3) the creation of a Palestinian state in the territories with its capital in East Jerusalem.
In return, Israel will get a peace agreement, the Arabs will “provide for the security of all states in the region”, and Israel will get “normal relations”, whatever they are (they are not ‘recognition’).
The Saudi and Egyptian understanding of the proposal is that Israel will get nothing until all three conditions have been met, and that there is no room to negotiate anything except how it will be implemented.
I’ve analyzed this proposal in detail in my post “The Arab initiative, as it stands, is a document of surrender“, so I won’t go into detail here.
It appears hard to reconcile Mr. Bush’s stated desire for both sides to meet their “roadmap obligations”, which seem to include the Palestinians taking action against terrorism, with a plan that requires the Arab side to do absolutely nothing until Israel has given up everything they want.
Unfortunately the roadmap calls for Israel to do concrete things (dismantle outposts, remove roadblocks, and withdraw from certain areas) and for Palestinians to “undertake” and “commence” to do things. They are not required to actually achieve anything. The requirements will be fulfilled as soon as the State Department, the Quartet, or whomever, decides that they are. So this doesn’t really contradict the Arab League initiative.
Mr. Bush concludes as follows:
No agreement and no Palestinian state will be born of terror…
The establishment of the state of Palestine is long overdue. The Palestinian people deserve it. And it will enhance the stability of the region, and it will contribute to the security of the people of Israel.
I should issue a Reality Inversion Alert over this comment! The actions of the leaders and people of Palestine have made it abundantly clear that they do not deserve a state. They have created no functional governing institutions besides clans and gangs, they have taken billions in aid without building any economic infrastructure, they have been consistently dishonest about their goals, and their preferred means of achieving them has been terrorism.
The establishment of the Palestinian state and concomitant withdrawal of the IDF from the territories will be disastrous for the security of Israel and for the stability of the region, because the process is being approached backwards: they are being given arms, money and ultimately sovereignty before they have developed the basic institutions of civil society, and while a powerful and highly disruptive faction — Hamas — is totally ignored.
If Mr. Bush’s actual goal were peace and stability, then he would approach it by taking steps to discourage the Palestinian belief that they can and will reverse the outcome of the 1948 war — rather than embracing the Arab League initiative, which promotes it.